Patterson On Progress, Coleman And Fans' Song

In an interview that originally appeared in the Everton Matchday Programme for the clash with Manchester City last weekend, Nathan Patterson discusses his journey from boyhood club Rangers to Merseyside, how he has set out a path to keep improving with the Blues, his relationship with ‘top guy’ Seamus Coleman, and his gratitude for Evertonians’ support.

For someone so used to good things happening quickly, Nathan Patterson has an impressive approach when it comes to biding time.

Growing up in Robroyston, a suburb of Glasgow, around three miles north-east of the city centre, Patterson soon became the focus of a nationwide scramble to secure his signature after joining amateur club Rossvale FC.

Celtic, Motherwell, Hamilton, Falkirk and Hearts all invited the youngster to trials before his father, Kenny, a joiner, received a long-awaited phone call from boyhood club Rangers.

Patterson was just eight years old.

“I remember we were sitting down having dinner when my dad’s phone went,” recalls Patterson. “It was a scout from Rangers, who said they wanted to get me in and get me under contract. My first reaction was, 'Let's do it, where do I need to go and when?'... It was a great feeling and obviously also for my dad, who is a big Rangers fan. 

“For him to have his son signing for the club he and his side of the family supports was a big thing for him. My mum wasn't a big football fan but she's had no choice over the years. She's kicking every ball with me now.”

Family and friends remain close.

It was they, Patterson says, who played such a key role in getting him to the position he is in today.

“It was quite quiet where I grew up,” explains the 21-year-old. “Housing estates, supermarkets, the usual kind of thing.

“I was close to everything — school and my boys’ club, before I joined Rangers. 

“Everything I did growing up was centred around football. I was always out on the street with mates, kicking the ball about and playing wherever I could. Playing football is what I enjoyed. It still is. 

“We played anywhere but mainly on the streets. We'd play on my street, kicking the ball against the wall and then we'd also go to pitches with proper nets sometimes. 

“It'd be a bit of everything, you'd be playing out, playing in goal, just enjoying everything about the game.

“Once I got picked up by Rangers my mum and dad were with me the whole way, of course... hailstones, pouring rain, they'd never miss a training session. 

“I owe everything to them and I just want to repay what they did for me and make them as proud as I possibly can.”

As well as both being breeding grounds for top footballing talents, like Liverpool, Glasgow’s culture has an honest, hard-working, no-nonsense nature at its core.

It’s an upbringing and philosophy that still burns bright in Patterson, who admits he sees similarities between the two cities to the extent of Merseyside feeling “homely”.

“When you're young you never get tired and you don't really feel pain, so it was that kind of football,” he explains. “I only have great memories of growing up.”

Pressed on the concept of not feeling pain, he clarifies: “You just get on wae' it and keep going!”

Signing a five-and-a-half year contract with Everton upon completing a move from Rangers in January last year, Patterson had already enjoyed a lightning-fast rise through the youth ranks into senior football.

Joining Rangers as a right winger, he was pushed deeper into a full-back role when games turned to 11-a-side and admits the new position suited him immediately, with the prospect of one-versus-one defending particularly appealing.

There were key coaches along the way. Jimmy McNee, a tough task master, is one who stands out for driving high standards and ensuring the foundation was always hard work.

Patterson’s senior debut, aged 18, came in January 2020 in a Scottish Cup match against Stranraer at 
Ibrox and a breakthrough season followed in 2020/21, with a league debut in a 2-0 home win over Kilmarnock in August 2020 the first of 14 first-team appearances.

He established himself as a regular in the starting line-up for the season run-in, as the Ibrox club landed a first league title for 10 years, going unbeaten through their campaign.

A senior international debut and subsequent appearances for Scotland followed as the nation confirmed their place in the qualification play-offs for the 2022 World Cup.

The transition to Premier League football wasn’t as quick, though, with Patterson made to wait until 3 March for his Everton debut in the FA Cup fifth-round victory over Boreham Wood before frustration hit as an ankle injury curtailed his season in the build-up to his probable league debut against West Ham United exactly a month later.

“You have to have a strong mentality and believe in yourself,” says the Blues defender. “The opportunities will come your way, always. I’ve experienced it even as a kid.

“You have tough times or times where you're not playing but you have to stay ready. As a footballer you want to be out on the pitch for every minute but if that’s not the case you can't sulk because it's happening for a reason.

“I just keep my head down, work hard in training every day, try to get better, try to get fitter and try to impress.”

Asked if that creates a pressure to perform when chances arise, he continues: “I don't necessarily feel a pressure to perform, it's more just the pressure of the game itself. 

“My mindset is more about going out there and performing to my capability. You put pressure on yourself to go and be your best.

“When you're playing in the Premier League there's going to be pressure and you're going to come up against top players every week so you have to enjoy it and thrive off that.”

Work that has gone into adapting to professional life south of the border has been thorough — and ongoing.

Patterson’s frame has changed significantly after putting on more than five kilograms of mass since joining Everton 16 months ago.

He remains tall, athletic and quick, though, despite creeping into a cruiserweight boxer threshold at 80kg.

It was a personal goal he had set prior to making the move but, now sitting at his target weight, he insists work to maintain that level is equally important as the journey to reach it.

“When I first came I was between 74kg and 75kg and now I'm sitting around at 80kg,” he reveals. “I’ve worked really hard in the gym and I made sure I spent the time I've been out injured wisely in that respect. 

“I’m up to where I want to be and it's about maintaining it now. Me, Davo [Tom Davies] and Dwighty [Dwight McNeil] have got a wee gym club going at Finch Farm, working on different aspects and making sure we're all ticking over to be in the best possible shape. 

“The work is every day. You have to make the most of every day. 

“I’ve been work closely with the Sport Science team here as, of course, they know a lot more than me about it. So I've been taking as much advice as possible and it's been working, so I'm going to keep at it.

“Diet as well. You have to eat a lot of the right things and there's amazing food here. We're well looked after and given everything we need to be eating. You can't just rely on that, though. When you go away you have to keep that up. It's tough living alone sometimes but I cook for myself when I need to, as well as taking things home from the training ground.

“When I was younger I always used to cook with my dad. He's a good cook. He taught me a few things when I was younger and you kind of pick things up as you're going. I'm getting used to that side of living alone — cooking and cleaning and that sort of thing. It's part of moving out, growing up and becoming independent. I've enjoyed that.”

Still very much in the early stages of his professional career, Patterson believes he has found the perfect mentor at Goodison Park in Club captain and fellow right-back Seamus Coleman.

“He's a top guy, honestly,” says Patterson, with added emphasis in his voice. “I couldn't speak more highly of him.

“He was the first guy to come and speak to me when I first got here. He's great with me — he encourages me every single day and he's great to work with. He's a top player who's played here for more than 13 years, so many games and he's been a top performer for such a long time, so it's impossible not to pick up things from him, especially with how he is.”

The dialogue between the two right-backs is constant.

“When I had the good run in the team before my knee injury he was probably in contact with me more than ever,” says Patterson. “He could see I was doing well and he was encouraging me to keep it up. 

“His main interest is for the Club. He wants the Club to do well and that happens if individuals are playing well. It's great to have that feeling he brings. 

“He's been there, too, when I've not been in the team. He's been in the game a long time and he knows that can happen. It's part of football.

“He's a proper captain.”

While Coleman’s involvement in a playing capacity this season is likely to be over after sustaining a knee ligament injury in the 2-2 draw at Leicester City earlier this month, Patterson says he remains a key figure behind the scenes at Finch Farm.

“A couple of days after the injury he was back in speaking to me about the clips we get through on the opposition,” he says. “Injuries are part of the game but it's hugely disappointing, especially at this time of the season as well. 

“He's still rallying the boys up and his focus is more on the group than him, as usual. He's a top lad and he'll be back.

“He sets the standard — a high standard — for what it means to be an Everton player. 

“You see it in training every day and even in the gym he's driving people to do things to their best. He doesn't let anyone get away with anything silly, even in wee passing drills he's making sure people are on it. You hear him in the background, making sure everyone is switched on. That's what you want from your captain.”

Patterson’s approach and impressive early displays in royal blue quickly led to a popular fan chant — to the tune of Following The Sun by Neck and SUPER-Hi — in his honour.

And, looking ahead to the future, the Glaswegian says he is desperate to repay the faith and backing 
Evertonians show up and down the country.

“Obviously, it's nice for the fans to make a song about you and sing it in the stands,” admits Patterson. “To have their backing means a lot. The fans are a huge part of this club. 

“You look at what they do with things like the coach welcomes… It’s madness! Amazing. It definitely gives you an extra lift. 

“To see all the faces and the passion they have for Everton drives you on. Fans of all ages feel it — you can see that, from the really young ones and it's great even seeing the old boys get involved as well. You see how much this means to everyone. It's their life. You have to have that in your mind when you're going out on the pitch — to give them something to cheer about because they'd give everything for this club.

“They're amazing every home game and even away, every game is sold out and they back us wherever we go. We know that they'll be there for us and that isn't taken for granted.

“We're in the present just now and we need to deal with what is happening but everyone can see how big this club is. We want to make sure we reach our goal and look ahead to better times, with the new stadium not far off as well. 

“It's cliché but you have to take each game at a time. We're focused on the next one now and looking no further ahead. We go into every game to win it.

“We'll be giving our all to make sure the future is a good one.”